Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Off the beaten track of contemporary American fiction in both style and setting, this remarkable second novel by the author of Postcards ( LJ 12/1/91) should capture the attention of readers and critics. Huge, homely Quoyle works off and on for a newspaper. His cheating wife Petal is killed in a car crash while abandoning him and their two preschool daughters. Wallowing in grief, Quoyle agrees to accompany his elderly aunt and resettle in a remote Newfoundland fishing village. Memorable characters--gay aunt Agnis, difficult daughter Bunny, new love interest Wavey, many colorful locals in their new hometown--combine with dark stories of the Quoyle family's past and the staccato, often subjectless or verbless sentences (bound to make English teachers cringe) to create a powerful whole. For most fiction collections.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Proulx has followed Postcards , her story of a family and their farm, with an extraordinary second novel of another family and the sea. The fulcrum is Quoyle, a patient, self-deprecating, oversized hack writer who, following the deaths of nasty parents and a succubus of a wife, moves with his two daughters and straight-thinking aunt back to the ancestral manse in Killick-Claw, a Newfoundland harbor town of no great distinction. There, Quoyle finds a job writing about car crashes and the shipping news for The Gammy Bird , a local paper kept afloat largely by reports of sexual abuse cases and comical typographical errors. Killick-Claw may not be perfect, but it is a stable enough community for Quoyle and Co. to recover from the terrors of their past lives. But the novel is much more than Quoyle's story: it is a moving evocation of a place and people buffeted by nature and change. Proulx routinely does without nouns and conjunctions--``Quoyle, grinning. Expected to hear they were having a kid. Already picked himself for godfather''--but her terse prose seems perfectly at home on the rocky Newfoundland coast. She is in her element both when creating haunting images (such as Quoyle's inbred, mad and mean forbears pulling their house across the ice after being ostracized by more God-fearing folk) and when lyrically rendering a routine of gray, cold days filled with cold cheeks, squidburgers, fried bologna and the sea. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
It is a testament to Proulx's unique storytelling skills that this tale of a miserable family opting to start a new life in a miserable Newfoundland fishing village has an enchanted, fairy-tale quality, despite its harrowing details of various abuses. It is also very funny. Big, big-hearted Quoyle, with his "great damp loaf of a body," is the unlikely protagonist who has never done anything right and who doesn't recognize love unless it brings pain and misery. Raging strumpet Petal Bear, Quoyle's beloved and oft-forgiven wife, is the fulcrum of his misery. When Petal's flame burns out (shortly after selling their kids, Sunshine and Bunny, to a child pornographer), Quoyle is set in motion, if not exactly free just yet. Along with his elderly aunt, her toothless dog Warren, and his rescued offspring, he heads north for his godforsaken ancestral home to take a job on a nasty little newspaper that features car wrecks, sexual-abuse stories, and giant fake ads. Proulx creates an amazing world in Killick-Claw, Newfoundland--a cold, rocky place that nevertheless is populated by a fascinating variety of big-hearted, unlikely heroes who are revealed to have all manner of special talents. Quoyle and company, who have never belonged anywhere, gradually fit right in. (Reviewed Feb 15, 1993)068419337XFrances Woods
Kirkus Book Review
Life was hard for Proulx's people in Heart Songs (l988) and Postcards (1991), and it's no easier for them in this dreary second novel, as they battle the elements (and their private demons) in Newfoundland. Front and center is Quoyle, an unprepossessing hulk with a ``monstrous chin,'' who goes from a loveless childhood in upstate New York to a half-loveless marriage to Petal Bear, a sharp-tongued bimbo who gives him two daughters (Bunny and Sunshine) and six years of suffering that Quoyle (still hopelessly smitten) gladly absorbs, not knowing that life can offer anything else. Then Petal is killed in a car accident, and Quoyle's Aunt Agnis, who has all the gumption her lummox of a nephew lacks, moves the family to their ancestral home in Newfoundland to start a new life. It's not easy; their house, perched grimly on a rock, is uninhabitable in winter, ``mean and hopeless'' year-round. But Quoyle, a ``third- rate newspaperman,'' is hired by the paper to cover car-wrecks and shipping news and is soon writing zippy columns, an improbable late-bloomer at 36; he also courts, ever so slowly, a widow called Wavey, who clings as foolishly to the sainted memory of her husband (a vicious tomcat) as Quoyle does to that of Petal. Proulx pumps up this low-key material with a splash of local color (old salts in the newsroom), a pinch of melodrama (headless corpse washes ashore), and a rattle of skeletons (Quoyle's father sexually abused sister Agnis). Proulx does okay by Newfoundland (though she won't help tourism any), but Quoyle, the poor turkey, is a fatal self- inflicted wound.